CTV Atlantic has pleaded guilty to breaching the Youth Criminal Justice Act by broadcasting video showing the faces of two young offenders involved in a violent home invasion more than a year ago in Cole Harbour.
The broadcaster was in Halifax provincial court on Tuesday to face two counts of breaching a publication ban. A representative of the company entered the guilty plea.
The video aired on Aug. 24, 2015 — the day three 17-year-old boys pleaded guilty to charges related to a home invasion that left a teenager partially paralyzed by a gunshot.
A Nova Scotia Legal Aid lawyer complained to police when she heard the next day that images of her client leaving court — with his face clearly visible — were broadcast on TV. Christa Thompson, who laid the complaint, said the footage showed two of the teens walking out of the courtroom with sheriffs and being escorted to the elevator.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act shields identities of Canadians who are accused or convicted of crimes committed while under the age of 18.
"I'm pleased to hear that CTV is taking responsibility," Thompson told CBC News on Tuesday, adding the goal of protecting young offenders' identities is to ensure they have a chance at rehabilitation.
"To violate the ban, I think, does undermine the purpose and principles contained in the act."
'Serve as an example'
CTV News is a division of Bell Media Inc., which has so far declined to comment on the case while it's before the courts.
Sentencing will take place on March 21.
Thompson said it's a good reminder for media about their duty to protect the identities of youth involved in the justice system.
"I would … hope that this case would serve as an example to keep the requirements of the act in the forefront," she said Tuesday.
A law professor at Queen's University has said these types of charges are exceedingly rare in Canada. Nicholas Bala told CBC News last month that he could think of only two or three such cases in the past 25 years.
Bala also said a fine — rather than jail time — is the most likely outcome because police are pursuing a corporation and not an individual.
Three youths and one adult, former amateur boxer Markel Jason Downey of Cole Harbour, were charged in the December 2014 home invasion.
Ashley MacLean Kearse, of Cole Harbour, was shot during the crime. She was paralyzed from the chest down.